Chloe Moss’s Christmas Is Miles Away opens in 1989 amid the trees and scrub of Greater Manchester. On the pop stations of the day, local bands the Smiths and the Stone Roses were insisting “I need to be loved” and “I wanna be adored.” But in the play’s first scene, 16-year-old best mates Luke (Roger Lirtsman) and Christie (Alex Fast) have more modest and immediate goals. They’d like to get their tent put up properly, they’d like girls to notice them, and if they had something besides tea to mix with their vodka, well, that would be an added bonus.
Moss, an English playwright, has set Christmas near the place and time of her own teendom. It’s an appealing if unfocused play about the perils of adolescence. The period details and the brash Northern dialect give the script a splendid specificity. But despite Moss’s engaging dialogue, the play feels both excessive and withholding. Scenes go on too long and resist contributing to the plot. The story of the gradual severing of Luke and Christie’s friendship—hastened by Christie’s acquisition of a girlfriend (Emily Landham)—barely gets told. Moss creates clear characterizations, but seems less than confident about what she wants those characters to do.
Director Geordie Broadwater seems similarly hesitant. He lets the pacing drag and is unsure where to place emphasis; the scenes eventually blur together. He elicits nicely understated performances from his young cast, but only Lirtsman as the doltish Luke fully inhabits the role. At the play’s end, suffering under the responsibilities of adulthood, he tells his former friend, “I feel…older, but not in a good way. I don’t feel mature or [anything]. Wise. I just feel…old.” Heaven knows he’s miserable now.